Does your résumé swing the balance of power to you in the formal Job Market?

I love it when people tell me that they got their job without using a résumé.  Such people seem to have both sides of the “Me Ltd” equation down pat.  As I discuss in one of my earlier blogs Career Mastery – Me Ltd, I believe that we have true employability if at least once a year someone tries to tempt us away from our current role and says: “Please come and work for us”.

However, most people I work with use a résumé as part of their Job Search campaign. 

And, at the risk of sounding harsh, the vast majority of people have ineffective résumés. No matter how intelligent they are or how strategic, the “Wow” factor just does not seem to translate across into this most important document.

My aim, when I help people to develop a résumé, is for the document to start to swing the balance of power towards them in the recruitment process.  I am not satisfied with a document that lands them in the “Yes” pile for interviews; I want them to be the one the prospective employer measures all others against.

There are two issues to consider here, both almost of equal importance and I recommend that you find an “astute” person to help you cover both bases.

Issue One: Is your résumé an attractive, well spaced, modern document?

Ask your astute friend to assess the visual appeal of your document. 

For starters, make sure that you are using a modern font – no more Times New Roman, Arial or even Garamond.  Popular fonts these days are: Calibri and Century Gothic and I worked with a Manufacturing guy recently and he used Tahoma – very strong and “in your face” but it worked well with his area of employment, I think.

And, like Goldilocks, you need to get the size of the font right – not too small that it’s difficult to read, not too big so that it looks like a primary school assignment.

Key “No Nos” at the moment

Review your résumé and make sure that there is no underlining, no shading, not too much use of Upper Caps, no headings in boxes and that you limit the use of italics. 

Colour is a vexed question.  Generally, for the corporate market, I don’t recommend it.  You have no guarantee that the recipient of your résumé will print it out in colour, in which case it can look bad when printed in black and white.  And, I find that the colours that people choose are rarely carefully thought out. 

Briefly, other things to consider with the “look” of your résumé are:

  • Is the internal spacing logical? 
    Our eye uses spacing to make sense of a document and if your spacing is illogical, it makes your document difficult to read.
  • Is there logic in the size of your headings? 
    You will likely have 4 different levels, and each level should be less obtrusive than the one before.

And, once you have come up with your attractive, easy to read document, make sure that you check its appearance every few years. The “look” of documents changes with time, so it’s worth considering whether your résumé is starting to look a bit dated.

Issue Two:  Does your Page 1 sell you as an excellent prospective incumbent?

Your entire résumé is important, but nothing caps the role of Page One. Here, there is a simple tip that can help you decide this content.

I ask people to write down a list of the 8-12 “things” that an excellent incumbent in the role they are aiming for would have.  These “things” will differ according to the specific role.  They may relate to qualifications, attributes, experience, personal qualities and, of course, specific achievements. 

You can gather this information from three sources:

  • Firstly, you should have some idea (or else it’s a bit of a worry).
  • Secondly, it’s worth checking relevant job ads.  They will tell you what’s trendy at the moment e.g. a while ago, executives were supposed to be Change Agents. 
  • Finally, it’s a matter of that astute person again.  Find someone who seems switched on in this area and ask his/her advice.

Once you have your list, you can examine each element one at a time, asking yourself this simple question: “Have I convincingly sold this aspect on page one of my résumé?” 

If yes, you are very much on the right track.  If not, you may need to change your content.

Evidence-based Selling

A final word on content.  In my opinion, there are three standards of résumé. 

The weakest version is one which lists a series of responsibilities attached to each role. Then, we have a better quality résumé which tries to paint a picture of activities completed in each job.  At the top of the quality pyramid, I believe, are résumés that focus on Achievements.

This is such an important topic, that it deserves its own blog, so see ‘Wow’ Résumé Part 2: Do you have a Hitler or Churchill Résumé? for my thoughts about writing compelling Achievement Statements that turn your résumé into a “wow” document.